This release is one which is difficult to describe, as it is the sonic version of a collection of short films, or plays. You really have to consciously listen to it to get the full effect. But here are a few observations to give a slight glimpse into a very different world. This Swedish band consists of Brother and Sister Olof and Karin. The Knife have been around for a few years, and have scored a previous hit with the single Heartbeats ( from 2003's Deep Cuts). They have received a Swedish Grammy, and their album has entered the Swedish charts at Number 1. They have only recently started to play live. They wear masks to obscure their identities, in order to put the focus on their music and accent the characters in their songs. They have only recently begun to play live, and will be making their first ( very brief) US tour this fall. I feel fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay area, and have MY ticket to their already sold out show ( which includes puppets, video and costumes).
Musically, I would have to put them in the Minimal Electro category, but there are really no categories for what they do from there. The singer Karin's voice is heavily processed, and varies from song to song, sometimes sounding like an older Male, or a harmonized Female, or a Child. The delivery is everything from a whisper to a not so Silent Shout. There are echoes of Kate Bush in her voice, and more than a little Bjork (due perhaps to their Scandinavian roots), particularly on the song Like A Pen.I also hear some early Residents in there.
Creepy vibes abound, like a David Lynch movie where the normal has an unsettling air about it, then everything goes strange.This is music that makes you uneasy, but is so catchy you will find yourself remembering the words and music for days after hearing them. Arpeggios dance around simple sustained string sounds, oriental tunings and mysterious story sounds from the vocals. There is a nature of the Pagan, or Tribal about them, but not in the Techno sense--more like Nordic Cannibals on the search for new dinner treats while listening to Oingo Boingo in Virtual Reality.
Now you can see why I say it is difficult to describe this CD.
I can't say that all fans of electronic music will appreciate what The Knife are trying to do. They are challenging a lot of preconceptions and breaking accepted molds. This is electronic Theatre. In some ways, this is also electro "punk" in the older sense of the word--but instead of being loud and in your face, it is quiet, and dark and chilled. You just know there is a blade ready to cut you when you are not looking. A lot of bands pretend to be dangerous. By the sheer uncertainty contained in these songs, and the cavernous chill of the songs, you just know that this music is truly frightening by the emotional rawness and human frailty exposed. A lot of electro is about perfection. This music is about loss and unfulfilled desire and failure. Blade Runner more than 2001. An android with a broken heart and a fractured soul.
Along with all the retro music going on these days, this album recalls some elements of 80's primitive synth music, but not in a way that apes the past, but which brings it into the modern day. Many of the songs on this CD have a video, primarily animated, that accompany them on the band's website. This is visual music. You really have to LISTEN to get the feel for what is going on. This is electronic music with a damaged human element. Story songs for the computer age. Like sitting around a camp fire and plugging into a virtual reality where a shaman tells you about the future.
This album is so original, you have to hear it to believe it. I highly doubt you will have heard anything like it before. Electronic music can suffer from a repetitive, clone factor. Too many bands are content to fall into the Depeche Mode vain, or just go for the endless loop. The Knife are showing a way forward, perhaps by going back to a time where music told a story, and gave a glimpse into who we are as humans amplified by technology. Exciting and frightening at the same time.
Artist Link: http://www.theknife.net